Last month, Neko Case released her first single in four years, called “Man.” It’s a great new song, from her mouthful-titled album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. This got me thinking about her last album, which came out in 2009: Middle Cyclone.
I found Middle Cyclone when I was seventeen and a senior in high school. I was drawn to the crazy cover art: Neko perched on a 1967 Mercury Cougar with a pointed sword. Since I was a big Tori Amos fan at the time (like, massive—you don’t even understand), I figured a blind buy of a redheaded woman singer’s album with badass cover art couldn’t hurt.
I wasn’t quite prepared for how important this album was going to be in my life. For the last four years, the poetic, symbolic lyrics of the songs written about animals and mythology have taken on meanings and new meanings in my psyche. When life throws a curveball, when a relationship falls apart or falls together, the songs feel as if they seamlessly morph into fables tailor-made to my own experience.
“This Tornado Loves You” is, literally, about a tornado falling in love with a boy. It’s also a great metaphor for every relationship in which you’ve felt like a bull in a china shop. “People Got a Lotta Nerve” is, literally, about a shark eating a man. It also describes that resigned feeling you get when someone is disappointed in the unrealistic expectations they have crafted for you. My personal favorite is “The Pharaohs,” which is written, again literally, about Egyptian pharaohs. The story Case tells of isolation and dissatisfaction is sometimes painfully modern.
The album is built of beautifully simple, yet breathtaking lines. Some of the best include “I miss how you’d sigh yourself to sleep when I’d rake the springtime across your sheets,” “Can’t scrape together quite enough to ride the bus to the outskirts of the fact that I need love,” “I lie ‘cross a path waiting just for a chance to be a spiderweb trapped in your lashes; for that, I would trade you my empire for ashes,” and, “You wandered the hall all the nighttime; my body burned, my legs ached, but you never came to bed, you just left me there awake; you kept me wanting like the wanting in the movies and the hymns.”
Right now you can pick up Middle Cyclone on Murfie for $5. Who knows? Maybe the songs will blend into your life as essentially as they have into mine.